Several members of the BioMed Central Editorial
team had the pleasure of attending the annual conference held by the National
Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) in Birminham UK, October 4-7th, 2009,
and of meeting up with several Editorial Board members while there. The conference and the concurrent workshop
about Sage bionetworks were stimulating events, and the discussions around the
issue of raw data depositon and publication will continue to be at the
forefront of public attention.
The NCRI conference brings together leading
international experts and showcases the best of UK research in cancer. This year’s program was very stimulating and
included talks on different aspects of translational research, drug discovery,
and clinical, epidemiological and therapy research in cancer, reflecting the
evolving integrated multi-disciplinary culture of cancer research both in the
UK and world-wide.
As one might expect, biomarkers and personalised
medicine were two hot topics that were high on the agenda at the conference.
Sunday evening, Paul Workman gave an extremely interesting plenary talk
on expanding the ‘druggable cancer genome’, outlining the challenges of
defining gene networks and developing relevant drugs and their companion
biomarkers. These issues are critical
for the development and testing of new drug therapies as we move towards
personalised, systems-based molecular cancer treatment.
Ian Tannock discussed the design of
clinical trials, analysis and reporting.
He highlighted the pitfalls of using surrogate end-points and emphasised
the finer points of using quality of life as a necessary end-point. His call for increased collaborative
research in oncology with the developing world, as well as more of a balance in
clinical trials to better reflect the burden of cancer worldwide was met with
general support. As well, the clinical
trials showcase provided late-breaking news and up-to-date information,
including an update of the COIN trial and a call to discontinue measuring CA125
as part of routine follow-up in relapsed ovarian cancer patients.
The Editorial Team was able to meet up with
several Editorial Advisors and Associate Editors for BMC Cancer to discuss the
progress of the journal as well as future developments. Data publication was a key subject of our
discussions – we continued discussions with Andrew Vickers on
the important issue of the
deposition (and publication) of raw data from clinical trials. This is an area
receiving much attention at the moment (for example:http://www.trialsjournal.com/content/10/1/17). Concurrently, in another part of
Birmingham, discussions were being held about Sage bionetworks
– the new, not-for-profit organization established earlier this year to build
and support an open access platform and databases for building new dynamic disease
Both discussions focussed on the fact that
openly depositing and publishing raw data will make research on the
efficacy of cancer drugs (among many research topics) much more efficient.
While there are many challenges to overcome, the issue of raw data deposition
and publication will continue to be a key focus for providers of scientific
information in the near future.